Academic life, bilingualism and Caernarfon Castle

Welcome back!

This time I’m going to tell you a little bit about the Academic life at Bangor University, the role of bilingualism in Bangor (or rather Wales) and my trip to Caernarfon – with lots of photos of its magnificent castle.  😉

Academic life at Bangor University

I certainly cannot share everything there is to say about the academic life here, I will therefore focus on things I find particularly interesting, especially because they are so different compared to how things work in Vienna.  (Please forgive me if some parts are hard to follow for someone who is not familiar with the University of Vienna system and/or linguistics, just skip those sentences or passages 😉 ).

One huge difference can be found in the course registration system: In Vienna we are all familiar with univis /u:space, e.g. online course registration. Here in Bangor that is also possible, but only in certain Schools. (Schools are like our departments in Vienna, so my school is for example the School of Linguistics & English Language). We had a great welcome meeting during our first week, where we were given a pink sheet. The pink sheet is used to note down all your courses, then you need to get a signature from a certain member of your school and hand it back to the International Office – then you will get registered. It was not that complicated but a lot of running from one place to another, in Vienna this kind of registration would certainly cause a mess – so everyone be glad we have univis / u:space 😉

The course system is also very different, while we have individual courses in Vienna, here in Bangor it is only possible to take modules, which consist of one course but this course might consist of more than one class. You couldn’t follow me? No problem! I’ll give you an example: One of my courses is called English & Society, we have a weekly lecture on Tuesday and a tutorial on Friday, which is almost every week. Now the concepts of ‘lecture’ and ‘tutorial’ and very different here: ‘Lecture’ means the lecturer talks most of the time, but the talks are very interactive, we sometimes get worksheets or are supposed to talk to our neighbors about a question or something, several times during one lecture. I would say it is very similar to what we know in Vienna as tutorials or ARs. Another difference is the number of participants, I think we are only about 30 to 40 people in this course and I was told it is more than full. In addition to that, attendance is always compulsory, attendance lists need to be signed every single time and we are basically not allowed to miss a single session. As far as I have understood it, we can miss class, but we need a good reason for that.

Now that I have mentioned English & Society – which deals with Sociolinguistics – I will tell you a little bit more about the courses I take. As an exchange student you have to do at least 25 ECTS, maximum 30 ECTS. Since I could only do courses with 10 ECTS, I do 30 – which means I have three courses. One of them is English & Society, the other ones are SLA and Language Teaching as well as Metaphor & Thought. At the very beginning before the classes had started I was not very happy with my course selection because apart from M&T I had to pick what fits my schedule, since the courses I wanted to do originally were not offered or not accessible to ERASMUS students. However, now I think SLA and Language Teaching was really good choice, because it deals with bilingualism and I am in the middle of a bilingualism community. So I guess there is no better place to learn about something I have not yet focused on that much, especially because my home is actually bilingual too. Metaphor & Thought was the course I came here for, it is Cognitive Linguistics in its purest state (does that sound weird? I guess it does…but I hope you know what I mean).

That was what I have to do because the University wants me to do that and because of my ERASMUS scholarship (they only want 15 ECTS, however – very nice people!). But that was certainly not everything I do here! I came here to learn as much as I can, after all. So apart from my the courses I take as a module (this means I have to do exams and get grades), I also do Welsh and Japanese!

 

What can I tell you about Japanese? It seems all Japanese teachers in the world are just awesome, so that is actually something I found in Vienna and I also find here in Bangor. I just had one lesson and although I became part of community (=class) that had been together since September, I felt very welcome and enjoyed the session. I also feel that I really learned a lot in just two hours. Oh yeah I forgot that – here there is no real academic quarter but two hours of teaching with a break in the middle. 😉 It is also quite interesting to experience being taught the same target language – Japanese – by using two different languages as means of instructions, German in Vienna, English in Bangor. Why? Because it requires some kind of metalanguage to learn and talk about Japanese, and this kind of metalanguage is a bit different in the two languages. 😉

Welsh is also pretty great, it was a bit difficult at the beginning because the pronunciation of certain letters is so different from what I am used to in all other languages I know. Have a look at this:

student –      spelling: myfyriwr            pronunciation:/məˈvərjʊr/

linguistics – spelling: ieithyddiaeth   pronunciation: /jəi̯ˈθəðjɑɨ̯θ/

So for instance the <y>, which is pronounced as /ə/ or /ɪ/ depending on the position of the syllable, as far as I have noticed so far. The <w> is also irritating, as it is pronounced as /ʊ/. However, one gets used to it after some time! (‘thank god!’ – my tongue said that, not me)

Bilingualism

One thing I have already realized in Chester when I was waiting for the train when listening to two old ladies talking Welsh is the importance of the Welsh language in Wales. One expects that Wales as a part of the United Kingdom is an English-speaking country and don’t misunderstand me, it is, but Welsh has the same status if not a higher status. Everything is provided in both languages, mails from the university are first in Welsh and then below one can find the English version. I am very impressed by the efforts made here to keep Welsh as a language actually spoken by the people. Bilingualism is omnipresent everywhere. However, I am not sure if younger people have the same command of Welsh as previous generations do. Nevertheless, being allowed to experience bilingual community is certainly something I highly value. Please find some evidence of what I said about the role of the two languages in form of photos below.

Societies, clubs and David Crystal (yes the famous linguist David Crystal!!)

Two things I would also like to address  with respect to academic life – societies and club and David Crystal day.

Societies and clubs play a very important role here. Those are basically communities or people sharing the same interests and having similar goals. They meet regularly and organize events such as social events or workshops. You can google ‘societies’ and add any university name you are interested in to find out what people do around the world. At the Welcome meeting we were told how important those are at university, and I am very happy that we are now working on establishing the same back at home, I was very fascinated by the idea and really want to realize it for our students as well. One event in which a society also plays quite a role here in Bangor is David Crystal Day, which I was very glad to experience on the 1st of February. David Crystal is one of the most famous linguists in the world and honorary professor at Bangor University, and after the two talks he gave on this day I can say that he is a brilliant entertainer as well. I missed the chance to see him back in 2012 when he was in Vienna, so I am even more happy about this chance. The second talk he gave was on eloquence, the first one on English accents. I want to share a few highly interesting things of his talk – especially for the linguists among you: He said that he himself does not have one accent -“mixed accents are increasingly the norm“. He also said that RP is not that popular anymore in England, it is changing – because of that change recent textbooks call it “General British” instead of RP – “formal characters dropped so much, it makes no sense to use a term reflecting class distinction if it is not relevant anymore“. He also said that the Queen’s accent has changed! All in all, his talk was absolutely great, I have learned so much and it certainly gave me food for thought.

davidcrystal.jpg

David Crystal – a celebrity in linguistics*.* (he’s the left one btw.)

I apologize for the long text, don’t worry, the photos come now! 😉

Day trip to Caernarfon

Last Saturday we went to a town called Caernafon, which is actually very close to Bangor. It took us approximately thirty min to get there by bus. Caernarfon is mainly famous because of its castle, which is also where we went to and spent most of our time this day.

The castle is huge and very impressive, we spent quite a few hours in there walking through all the towers and going to the very top of them, which was not that easy because of the narrow stairs. However, it was definitely worth it going up. We paid a visit to the museum, which is part of the castle. The visit was  very insightful in many ways (I have learnt, for instance, that goats apparently fight in wars). This exact castle is also the place where Prince Charles was invested as Prince of Wales in 1969. I do not want to bore you with history here, this time I let the photos I took there speak to you (many more to find in the gallery!!). 😉

I hope you liked this blog entry, I know it’s a rather long one but there was a lot of information to share this time. 😉 Next time I will probably write about our visit to Roman Camp, the Chinese New Year Celebration in Bangor and the planned visit to Beaumaris castle, we will see. 😉

At the very end I want share one important insight with you:

A few days ago I was reading a text about frames, ICMs ect. for my Metaphor & Thought class and I realized something: At the beginning it was difficult here, it was all about going abroad, being far away from home and those things – some of you will know too well what I mean. However, while reading this text I could not feel more like being at home. Home is indeed where the heart is. No matter where I am, as long as there is linguistics, I am at home.

Best wishes,

Alexandra

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